Friday, May 24, 2013

Terrorism

New York City Fire Chief addresses firefighters, 9/11 (1)
Terrorism is not something I ever expected to have to deal with at home. I grew up in a world where we played outside until the street lights came on, and the only caveat was that we had to be close enough to hear when the parents started calling for us. We tumbled out the door at dawn and came back in time for lunch, then we were out again until supper. Our parents never knew our whereabouts, and we were happy with it that way.

I wish we could give that same freedom to our children, but we can't. Children left outside for hours at a time like that often go missing. The world we live in today is not child friendly. It is not a good world.

Boston bombings 2013 (2)
Two days ago, a British soldier was walking on a London street and was beheaded by two radical Islamic men. Only a few weeks ago, hundreds of people were injured and killed during the bombing of the finish line of the Boston Marathon, something also linked to radical Islamic beliefs. These two geographically disparate events don't seem to be much connected, except by the radicals who performed them, and even there, the men weren't connected in any known way. They were "lone wolves" who worked on their own with only a bit of urging from terrorists in the Middle East.

Terrorism has always been something that "happened over there." You just don't see bombings and shootings in the streets of North America. Except that now you do. We have mass shootings in our schools, radical Christians spouting hatred on the internet, and riots across the continent.

At one time, I would have donned my priestess robes, picked up a flower, and declared, "Give peace a chance." That flower child is long gone, my friends. I still believe that we can largely live in peace on this rather small globe, even with all our differences. It isn't going to be easy, though, and it's going to mean doing some pretty drastic things, things that the general public is not going to like.

Women in burkas, 2003 (3)
The current concern about Muslim terrorists and extremists is that they hide in plain sight. Just as you can't look at a Christian and tell if she's Lutheran, Unitarian, Catholic or UCC, you can't tell by looking whether a Muslim is an extremist or not. Most Muslim men wear head coverings, and have a beard, regardless of their type of belief. Muslim women dress very modestly, often covering their hair and sometimes other parts of their bodies, and this is true of extremists and moderates. So how do we know who to be afraid of?

The problem is that we don't know. There is no easy way to point and say, "That's the bad guy." The knee jerk reaction lately has been to label all Muslims as suspect, and to avoid them and persecute them. I don't see that as an acceptable answer, especially in this country. America is the great melting pot, and if we begin to persecute people because of their religious beliefs, then we become like the beast we're trying to conquer. We cannot in good faith descend into that pit.

Osama bin Laden, 2011 (4)
On the other side of that, we can't just stand around twiddling our thumbs and saying it's an isolated incident. That's simply no longer true. There are radical Muslims in this country and others, and they are hell bent on destroying western culture and life.

It's my opinion that we need to treat these radicals (and by that, I mean ALL radicals, be they from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or other background) as the criminals they are. We don't have laws prohibiting the practice of Islam, nor should we. But we certainly have laws prohibiting murder, rape, torture, and terrorism. Let's exercise these laws to the fullest extent. The problem is not the religion itself, but the thought patterns amongst the radicalized men and women in their various religions.

What we need to avoid is the "us or them" thought pattern. That is inherently what leads to radicalism. We need to internalize that there is no "all Muslims" anymore than there is "all Christians" or "all Democrats" or "all women." These defined and labelled groups do not exist. Those Muslims, Christians, Democrats, women, and others who choose to flout the laws of this land or who espouse a viewpoint that is damaging on a cellular level to the American way of life, should be carefully monitored.

Is it profiling? It may be. Profiling was created for a reason, and it isn't a bad thing on its own. Profiles let us know what sort of people to look for based upon the crimes committed. It's useful. The good profile becomes useless, though, when it is ignored or distorted. New methods of profiling should be examined and tried.

Five years ago, extremist Muslim behavior brought almost no sound out of the greater Muslim community in North America. All you could hear were crickets. Today, though, that is changing. Throughout the world, Muslim leaders outside of the Middle East are standing up and speaking vehemently against the violence of their extremist brethren. This is such a huge step forward. It can't be praised enough.

When Westboro Baptist pickets a soldier's funeral because of some perceived fault, thousands of counter-protesters arrive to block WB's ability to cause a ruckus. Other Christians readily denounce them as radicals, extremists, and as people with very little understanding of their holy book. When Muslims can do the same, the world will be a little better, a little safer place to live.

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1) Image by Andrea Booher, FEMA photo library (Wikimedia Commons)
2) Image by Aaron Tang (Wikimedia Commons)
3) Image by Nitin Madhav, USAID (Wikimedia Commons)
4) Image by U. S. Federal Government (Wikimedia Commons)
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